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Doug Sundseth

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Everything posted by Doug Sundseth

  1. Doug Sundseth

    Miniatures Photography 101

    About a month ago I said that I would start a thread for basic miniatures photography. I took a few photos that night, but they've languished on my camera and phone until the last couple of days. At any rate, here we go. The first thing to know about photographing miniatures is that it isn't really all that difficult. They don't move, you have complete control over the light, and they're small enough that backgrounds are easy. For this first post, I've taken a pictures of a couple of subjects in the simplest way I know how. (Later posts will address more complex subjects, but let's start out without adding any complexity.) The miniatures photos here were taken with my cellphone using undiffused desk lamps in a couple of minutes. There's nothing required that you can't do with things you almost certainly already own. The biggest mistakes people commonly make are busy backgrounds, strange white balance, under- or over-exposed photos, and unfocused images, We'll address those one at a time: Background: 1. Rather than shooting a picture on your desktop with bottles of paint, partially painted miniatures, rinse water, and a half-full can of Mountain Dew in the background, use a simple sheet of paper for the background. Put the bottom on the table and curve the top up to form a backdrop. To a photographer, this is a "seamless backdrop", but we only need paper the size of printer paper (letter or A4) for most subjects. White Balance 2. For white balance, there are several things that contribute to problems. First, if you are using lights of different colors, you'll end up with colors that can't be corrected either by your camera or in post-processing. Until you know exactly what you're planning to do, make sure all your lights are a single type. After that, you should still use lights of a single type unless you're trying to do something very clever. 3. If you have your camera set for incandescent lights and you're using fluorescent lights to illuminate the subject, you'll get a fairly nasty greenish-blue color cast. Similar problems will occur with other mismatched lighting and camera setting combinations. To start with, I'd recommend using automatic white balance. Which brings us to: 4. Your camera determines the color of the scene lighting by the color of the photons that hit its sensor. If you have a colored background, many of those photons will be the color of that background, which can confuse the camera's tiny little mind. Use a neutral background. Exposure 5. Your camera can adjust for nearly any light level you can read in. The amount of light, other than that, doesn't matter all that much (except for how steady you have to hold the camera, which will discuss in a bit). What does matter is that the light be relatively even. Since miniatures are ... miniature ... you don't need large lights to get decent quality light. Desk lamps placed close to the subject work just fine. But the light needs to hit the side nearest the camera and you want light on both sides of the subject, so use two lights, one to either side of the line between the camera and the subject, and put them in close. Don't use a light box unless you know exactly why you're doing it. ("Because I read somewhere that it works" is not sufficient reason.) 6. Depending on the camera, you can use an automatic exposure, use an automatic exposure with compensation, or use a manual exposure. Any of those can work, but automatic exposure requires the least work, so we'll do that this time. 7. But -- your camera determines what exposure to use again by looking at the average brightness of everything it sees in the scene. If you have a dark background, the camera will think the scene has very low light levels, so it will expose for longer. If you have a light background, for the same reason, it will expose for less time. Since you want a Goldilocks exposure, you want a medium color in the background. And since we want a neutral background (see 4 above), that means a medium gray. Use a medium gray background. Focus 8. Your camera is pretty good at pulling an accurate focus, but if you work at it, you can fool it. Cameras focus on hard lines; if your background has hard lines (or lots of stuff with sharp details), your camera might decide the background is the real subject and focus there. Use a background with no strong patterns. Plain, monochrome paper or something with diffuse mottling (like some of the Hangar 18 photo backgrounds) works fine for this. 9. Your camera has a minimum focal range. If you can't pull focus, move the camera back and crop out the extra background in post-processing. You aren't going to want to post all 16 million pixels anyway. 10. If the camera is shaking when you press the shutter release, you'll get motion blur. This can look like poor focus (which is why it's here), but the fix is to make sure the camera isn't moving. Use a tripod or set the camera on something steady. A bag of uncooked rice works pretty well as a shooting rest. 11. Finally, with a deep subject, it can be impossible to hold focus through the depth of the figure. You'll see this most often with figures that are holding swords away from their bodies, but it can happen with most figures. This is a physics problem for which the only simple fix is limiting the depth of the subject. Turn the figure so that its deepest distance is perpendicular to the camera. Which all sounds really complicated. So what does it look like? Camera on a tripod, gray paper background, and two lights close to the subject. Now, this was a really quick shoot, and there are things I would do slightly differently (mostly raise the right light to avoid the shadow on the paper), but for instructional purposes,I think it's adequate. And if you want to see other shots taken in much the same way, check out Heisler's article on the Genghis Con 2014 miniatures contest. The only difference there was that rather than using OTTlites, I used desk lamps with GE Reveal bulbs and I used my DSLR rather than a cell phone. ETA: Reveal bulbs were not really a very good choice. Their Color Rendering Index (CRI) is low and their color temp is pretty close to regular incandescents (which have a very high CRI).
  2. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    I've debated internally how I want to respond to certain posts upthread. Rather than responding in kind (and I'm as capable of make lightly veiled allusions to my political beliefs as anyone), I'll simply say that politics belongs in Beekeepers. Please do the rest of us a favor and keep it there. That seems to be pretty standard. And if you need to cook something for 1 minute, "60" is one keystroke less than "1:00". Efficiency is important; that's why we're using microwaves.
  3. Doug Sundseth

    Getting to Know Each Other, October 2018

    At work: I have to have plans and schedules so I can know what to supersede when I get higher-priority assignments. At home: I have plans, but they're squishy things and deadlines like "Just real soon now™." This works about as well as you might expect.
  4. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    I've been watching/listening to videos from "Peninsula Seniors Videos" (PeninsulaSrsVideos) on YouTube. Intro and outro are done by someone who could be your grandmother and sound like they should be talking about great golf courses in Southern California. The subjects? B-1 Bailout: Hazards of Flight Test Northrop Flying Wing Flight Testing from N-1 to B-2 Air France 447 Deep Stall and Thunderstorms ... Some cognitive dissonance, but the presentations are really well done by people who seriously know their stuff. Recommended if the subjects interest you.
  5. Doug Sundseth

    Owl Coin

    This might be an obvious comment, but it looks to me like you would want to move the '2018' about 5° clockwise on the curve to center it below the gap. Are you thinking of using a printout and something like a pounce wheel to get the outlines of the letters?
  6. Doug Sundseth

    Getting to Know Each Other, October 2018

    This exercise reminds me of the way you build characters in HeroQuest 1st Ed. There you have 100 words to describe the character and each thing you include in your description gives you some sort of skill or item. There were strict limits on how many items you could include in a list form and the paragraph had to read like a background. I think I broke the system with the character I first built.
  7. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    You get your Catholics where you can find them. I mean, it's the 6th inning and the Protestants have their rally hats on, so it's important.
  8. Doug Sundseth

    77518: Cultist Priest

    I like that effect a lot more than Yet More Black™.
  9. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    When a bunch of people press the same wrong button (or disconnect the same wrong box), that's usually an indication that there's a problem with the user interface. Here, it sounds like the user interface is a blank label with a handwritten note on a black plastic box. If it were me, I'd consider making a custom label with a very prominent "Bridge" written in large black text with a small box below saying something like "Connected to: ____________". Make sure that whatever space there is would not easily contain something more obvious to a casual observer than "Bridge". Now, I can pretty much guarantee that this won't be enough to stop everyone from making mistakes, but it might help. At the least, you can more easily identify the box to the customer over the phone.
  10. Doug Sundseth

    Unpainted Minis from Wizkids

    One of the costs of less plasticizer in the PVC. More plasticizer means easier ejection from complex molds, more bendy thin bits, easier fixing of thin bit bends, harder to remove some mold lines and easier for others, .... Swings and roundabouts, but for my purposes I prefer the harder plastics almost always. (For the lanterns on the wagon, I replaced the supports with brass rod, just like I replace Bones spear hafts with brass rod.)
  11. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    I could probably give you a relatively accurate forecast for Honolulu right now and I haven't lived there in 38 years. Just looked; yup.
  12. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    The problem is training them to tight synchrony. (They don't react well to drill-sergeant-like leaders. Too individualistic.) And they seem to like jazz more than Sousa, so that's out, too. As I say, a hard problem.
  13. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    There are lots of people with lots of money to make (or other big advantages) out of accurate weather forecasts -- DoD, farmers, Vegas (sports books), NASA (), .... As might be expected when there's money to be made, many things have been, and are being, tried, including neural networks. See https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=etd for instance. There's definitely more data to work with downwind, and the east coast of the US is somewhat less subject to chaos than the mountain west (where a few degrees of wind direction variation can cause huge changes to weather) anyway, but there are quite a few moored weather stations at sea as well, since, again, there's money in this:https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/ocs/ . From the evidence available to me, this is just a hard problem.
  14. Doug Sundseth

    Getting to Know Each Other, October 2018

    Galaxy Note 3 Various Kindle Fire tablets A laptop that was fairly high end when I bought it a few years ago, so it's only now starting to show its age. Nikon D810 Work computer that I don't have to manage so don't really track Other random things that include computers like microwave oven, car, .... Do you like that Pixel? As might be suspected from my using a Note 3, I'm in the market for a new phone but hesitant to spend the price that they would like me to spend.
  15. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    I have a good friend that works for NOAA/UCAR. He has told me that the meteorologists there will readily admit that any forecast beyond 3 days is mostly a guess, based on a combination of average weather and current trends. But there's a demand for a 10 day forecast, so there's a 10-day forecast.
  16. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    It's a deep, deep hole. I don't always agree with his advice. But since he's a much better painter than I am, I have to work to justify my disagreements, which is interesting in its own way.
  17. Doug Sundseth

    Getting to Know Each Other, October 2018

    40+ years of RPGs and 30+ years of CRPGs make that essentially impossible to determine, so here's the one that came to mind: Champions game, our group of tawdry juvenile intrepid heroes is called to a bank robbery. The villain's main power is strength transfer. So as time goes on, he gets stronger and stronger as we get weaker and weaker. Nasty. But, Champs being Champs and me being me, I just had to build a character (on a reasonable points budget) that would be way, way, worse. What I came up with was a character who used Speed (number of actions per turn) and Dexterity (sort of basic AC and BAB, if you're a Pathfinder player) transfer, built as an area attack. The concept is to start by buying a ticket to a concert or sporting event, then terrorize the entire city because you're moving orders of magnitude faster than anyone else possibly can. (There are some details to how to accomplish the build that are probably beyond this thread.) NB: I never ran the character, either as a PC or NPC. He was just an exercise in rules manipulation. If you're GMing Champions, you had better have a firm grasp on how the rules work, because exploits are manifold and varied. If you have that grasp, I think it's the best system out there, but it's tricky to run well. And it requires players who can self-moderate, at least somewhat.
  18. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    Purple state with some pretty high-profile elections, not just national but on the state level. It's worse, because my son hasn't registered for a party, so we've been getting both sides on every office and issue. Hint: Register with a party, any party. Party registrations (at least here) are public record and all the campaigns pull those records looking for fresh meat possible converts unconvinced new votes. Your registration doesn't obligate you to anything, but it cuts down on the mail, unsolicited phone calls, and door-to-door canvassers. Unless you're looking for somebody to talk to, I guess.
  19. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    I've become irritated enough that I'm now giving pollsters all the barrels: Ask them why I should answer their question. Debate with them why their reasons are BS. Ask who is paying for the push poll (they won't answer). ETA: Ask them why I should answer their questions if they won't answer mine. Ask to talk to a supervisor and threaten them with a harassment lawsuit. And now I really want to do this: "Carnivore Carrots™" Hmm, I think cut (rather than ground) pork might be a better starting texture, though.
  20. Doug Sundseth

    TaleSpinner Hallmark/Trademark

    Very striking. (So to say. )
  21. I'm assuming you are planning to throw this out of focus in the photos, which will remove some of the hard edges of various spots. (Watch out for your camera wanting to focus on the background instead of the figure.) You'll need to keep the background back a bit from the figure and use a moderately long lens to make sure it's out of focus. Being very nearsighted, I took my glasses off to look at this rather in the way that it would look when well out of the depth of field of a camera, and what I'm seeing is a yellowish-green cross-shape with four fairly prominent purple spots. For some figures, this might work well (it's your artistic vision, after all), but for me it wouldn't work very well for a general background. On technique, you might consider trying to make something like this with pastels or colored pencils and a "blending stump". When you rub the pencil or chalk marks with the blending stump, it will soften the edges of the pigment you lay down and can give you the kind of cloudy look that I think you're going for. (One of the advantages of this method is no drying time.) If you try this, you will probably want to spray a fixative to protect the surface of the sheet.
  22. Doug Sundseth

    Randomness XIV: THE FLOOR IS LAVA!

    When I was younger I ran 3000m for the track team (slowly; I wasn't much of an asset). Much of the training for that was cross-country, so I sprained both ankles repeatedly. I can testify that high-top athletic shoes or short boots really do help to limit both the frequency and severity of ankle sprains. Though they're not much of a fashion statement, if that matters. We were talking about N-stuffed Oreos last night and the consensus was that sugar cookies (or other flavor to taste) and a bucket of frosting would be much tastier than the Oreos. This has been your public service announcement for the day.
  23. Doug Sundseth

    Getting to Know Each Other, October 2018

    Do you include Economics as a "basic science"? Because I'd like a world where people actually understood that thoroughly.
  24. Monthly update time again. For people not going to MileHiCon, we'll be meeting this Saturday at Total Escape in Broomfield, 10:30 - 4-ish. Hope to see you there.
  25. Doug Sundseth

    Getting to Know Each Other, October 2018

    The head of our quality team used to be head of quality at the factory that makes those.
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